One in 12 Seniors Has Inadequate Food
It may be shocking to hear in a country as prosperous as ours that many seniors 60 and older are not getting adequate food. The primary reason many older adults are going hungry is attributed to the lack of financial resources. Termed “food insecure,” those seniors without adequate food are at much higher risk for health problems and issues directly related to malnutrition. The research on senior food insecurity was done in a recent study by at the University of Illinois using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
Dr. Greg Gundersen, who led the data analysis of the research study reports, “In 2011, 8.35 percent of Americans over age 60 faced the threat of hunger – that translates to 4.8 million people.” Gundersen advises that food insecurity with its reduced calorie intake, vitamins and essential nutrients put seniors at risk for diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, gum disease and other illnesses related to inadequate food.
The extensive data that resulted from this study allowed researchers to compare older adults over 60 to those 50 to 59. This gave foreshadowing for the younger seniors’ outlook in their older years. The younger subjects were already beginning to show similarities in their diet and resulting poorer health.
One startling statistic the researchers found was the rates of food insecurity were nearly three times as high if there were grandchildren living in the home. Gundersen speculated, “We think this may be because adults in households with grandchildren are foregoing health diets in order to make sure their grandchildren have enough to eat.” As a result of the study and this data, Gundersen feels the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) is one proven way to address this problem of food insecurity in older adults. He is actively recommending policymakers and administrators work to increase participation in the program focusing on seniors that are affected.
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